26th October - 3rd November, 1996
Design and Assessment of the Course, Associates and Staff Assessment
The first residential course for Associates of LEAD-Europe was based on the curriculum being developed. The design took account of the wide diversity of the professional background of the Associates. It was thus conceived to "expose" all Associates to the range of issues and approaches necessary to obtain an overall and coordinated understanding of the central theme of the LEAD program, sustainable development. Within this context issues addressed included:
- the concept of sustainability
- indicators of sustainable development
- local and regional sustainability initiatives
- energy intensity
- materials intensity and dematerialization
- contribution of technology
- social sustainability - the environment and employment
- trade and environment
- climate change.
The approaches presented included:
- accounting frameworks
- simple modeling techniques
- socio-economic analysis
- economics and natural resource use.
The approach was one of tutor presentation and discussion, and some group work. Roundtable's were used to encourage wide-ranging discussion. Tutors were drawn very widely, but not evenly from north, south, eastern and western Europe as well as North America and, in origin, from Asia also. LEAD-Europe staff also acted as tutors for part of the course and three ESC members contributed. Three staff members from international agencies located in Geneva were tutors (WMO, WHO and WTO) and six "local" professionals from Geneva, or its environs, also contributed.
It was appreciated from the outset that the design of the course might prove over-ambitious and overly taxing for the Associates. Other approaches, such as emphasis on personal skills training, work through small group interaction, focus on a few issues in depth to give a more modular approach were considered. The diverse nature of the background of the Associates, anticipation of the form of future residential courses, in Europe and international sessions, a desire to "test the water" over a wide range of issues and topics, a conviction that one essential lesson to be delivered was of the complexity and inter-linked nature of environmental and development issues (rather than a discrete, modular approach) and some of the lessons learned from other national or regional LEAD programs all combined to design the first residential course in the manner indicated.
Being the first course to be undertaken by LEAD-Europe, great importance was attached to assessing its impact, efficacy and reception. The assessment process was based on reactions from "external" assessors, the Associates and the staff. The external assessment was co-ordinated by Dr. G. Martin of the International Academy of the Environment, kindly made available for this task by Dr. B. Hawrylyshyn, the then Director. Dr. Martin attended throughout the course. Dr. Martin was assisted by Prof. M. Finger who has close associations with LEAD International and has participated in many international sessions. Dr. G. T. Goodman from ESC was the third member of the external assessment team. The Associates were invited to complete a questionnaire that attempted to elicit not so much the popularity of the tutorial sessions but their effectiveness in exposing the Associates to material and a knowledge in the light of their own level of understanding and insights. A detailed analysis was carried out on the answers and some results and conclusions are presented below. Staff discussion, immediately following the course recorded overall impressions and, subsequently, produced reactions to the other two assessment procedures.
LEAD-Europe staff accept the points made in the external assessment report and find the document extremely helpful in the process of planning future LEAD-Europe courses. The Associates can, indeed, be challenged to go beyond participating and become co-owners of the process. A better planned and more interactive opening session would have been an improvement; a facilitator to help control sessions would be useful and perhaps LEAD-Europe staff should have taken on this role in a more active manner; tutors were given clear, written instructions individually - more effort to ensure they follow such advice is required in future; carefully prepared written material for Associates, in advance of the course is something that will be considered by staff for the next course in St. Marienthal; a more careful selection of tutors, time for frequent evaluation, English language skill improvement on an individual basis, computer training and provision and the need for more sessional variety are all implemented or given active consideration. The lessons drawn from this assessment are reflected in the rather different approach and organisation of the second residential course in St. Marienthal, Germany.
The diversity of the Associates is borne out by the scores they gave relating to the benefit they felt they had received from the tutorials and roundtable's. All but one tutorial was thought to have opened up new perspectives and enlarged the breadth of knowledge of at least one Associate; far fewer tutorials proved to be unclear or inadequate and none of the roundtable's. While there is no pattern in relative differences of the Associate appreciation with respect to age, profession or employment, the two who felt they had benefited least were also the most vocal in tutorials ! The Associate who estimated that he had received the most benefit was not a major verbal contributor during the course. This is not interpreted adversely as in all likelihood the lack of interjections may be indicative of an appreciation of the material being presented. Overall it appears that the sociology-based tutorials were not felt to have been of such great benefit as the more natural science-oriented ones. Presentation of the so-called "practitioners" fell in between. However, all tutorials improved the general understanding of the Associates as a whole. The principal component type analysis can be interpreted as emphasising the Associates general distinction between the benefit of the more conceptually complex topics and approaches compared to simpler topics and the distinction between the more qualitative and more quantitative tutorials. Efforts to increase still further theses distinctions may be made in the future. A more detailed internal assessment on an "individual Associates" basis is kept in the LEAD-Europe office.
The benefit obtained from a tutorial is a very personal assessment and it is not necessarily judged in the same way from the perspective of observation of the group reaction and dynamic. On occasions it appeared that the tutorials, subsequently judged to have a lower level of benefit overall, were eliciting the most interesting responses from Associates ! It will be useful to utilise the assessment in the future design of topics, approaches and the method and time allowed for presentations in future courses and for the next cohort of Associates.
The conclusions drawn for the course design from the initial self-evaluation of the Associates proved to be correct. For the next cohort, the level of competence-questions ought to go beyond the basic disciplines stipulated for the present cohort.
Economics oriented tutorials need to address specific questions to meet the Associates level of competence, or lack of it, in economics. This situation is a little different from environmentally oriented tutorials. There could be free exchanges from the start taking into account the detailed background information on the Associates provided to all tutors. Tutors will be encouraged to take this approach in the future.
Social science tutorials will have to start from more basic aspects. Prior adjustment according to Associates' interest is not as productive as for natural science and economics. The practitioner tutorials proved to be very effective, even where the subject was removed from an Associate's direct professional interest.
M. J. Chadwick T. R. Grammig
First Residential Session, related, Schedule, Tutors
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